This is the story of me. I’m honestly not very impressive. But of course, God is, and I think what He’s done with my life is quite amazing too. That is why I have decided to share it with you now. Keep in mind that this isn’t the whole story. Unless God says otherwise, there are pages and pages of hardship, failure, triumph, and grace to be added in the future. This is just the beginning of what I pray will be a lifelong, glorious battle against evil for my Lord until He finally conquers Satan and sits on His throne of glory. May God receive all the praise for what He has done with me, and may I continue to follow Him all the days of my life.
The Old Creation
Once there lived an old creation. Yes, an old creation. His name was Luke, and he looked like every other guy on the street; except for the fact that he was a Christian. But he wasn’t one of those strange religious types. He was a cool Christian; or at least he thought so. He showed off his skills to all his friends, and never bored them with talk of “Bible stuff.” He quietly pursued girls like all those around him, and tried to make his act look as good as possible. He didn’t praise God unless it was Sunday, and even then he never got serious about it. He wouldn’t be a gentleman to anyone unless he was being forced to by his parents. Oh, he was a “good kid” compared to most, but he never rose too high above his peers’ expectations, and he only worked at something if he absolutely had to (or if it satisfied his own desires). Like all his friends, he would make fun of the unpopular kid to make everyone laugh. He never really thought about God much in his everyday life. He mostly had hateful thoughts, girls, or himself on his mind. He was a counterfeit of everything God planned for him to be as a man. He stood up for his hobbies, but never his Savior. He read his science-fiction books all the time, but his Bible remained closed Monday-Saturday. He was, to put it bluntly, a jerk disguised as a Christian. This, my friends, was me. This was me in 2009-2010. Then God decided it was time for a change, and as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, He made me into a new creation. My old self passed, and behold, my new self came!
I don’t pride myself in the fact that I used to be that old creation. I was pretty bad, I must tell you. But when I possessed my old self, I played the part well. I didn’t go proclaiming my shameful spiritual condition throughout the halls. I just blended in, tried to look cool, and let my sheep costume make me resemble a true Christian just a little bit. That was all you needed to stay acceptable. Just a good act, cool friends, and “Christianity” (to the short extent of your parent’s beliefs). You just needed to know that God existed, and that as long as your friends liked you, you were doing all right. I based my entire Christianity on feelings and the “religious status” of my family. I didn’t know or care about any solid proof for God’s existence. I never actually comprehended God’s intense love for me, and I never set my mind to do anything worthy of the Kingdom. If I did do something Christ-like, it was basically a way to get some points up on the board for myself; not really to set a good lifelong or even week-long habit. I was, as modern terminology would say, a nominal Christian. One of the definitions of the word “nominal” is: “Existing in name only.” That’s exactly what I was doing as a Christian. I was a Christian in my name alone, and not in my actions, words, or desires. Basically, the only reason anyone would call me a Christian was because I said I was a Christian. Nobody could see the life of Christ reflected in my pursuits and habits. I loved the world, and kept God in my back pocket as hell insurance. Little did I know that God was not giving up on me yet. He chased me down, got my attention, and saved me from a life of hypocrisy. I’ll never forget His incredible grace and love in doing so.
The Turning Point
“Oh great, another sermon on saving your virginity until marriage,” I thought as I looked over the sheet my mom had handed me. It was a schedule for all the talks I would be attending at that year’s annual INCH conference. INCH is a conference where speakers and authors come and give talks in a series of rooms. It’s based on homeschooling and Christian living, and one of the talks my mom had signed me up for was called, “When God Writes Your Love Story.” My first thought was one of dread. I wasn’t afraid of these types of talks, but I knew exactly how they would turn out; boring. All the speakers do in those talks is tell you not to have sex before marriage and marry a Christian who goes to church, right? Nope. Not this time. I was in for quite a surprise when I stepped foot into the Lansing Center building on that life-changing day in May of 2011.
I entered the room and sat down. Before the day began, a man named Eric Ludy was to give a speech for the teen guys who were volunteering at the INCH conference; that included me. While Eric was giving his speech, the teen girls who were volunteering received a speech in another room from Eric’s wife, Leslie. The talk began, and immediately the Holy Spirit went to work on me. Eric had a style unlike any other speaker I’d seen. I could tell from the ever-present smile on his face and the tone in his voice that he truly believed what he was saying. He really loved his ministry. When he shouted a soul-rattling cry like, “We are God’s tools!” I could tell that he really meant what he said; he felt it in his heart. I wanted whatever it was this man had that seemingly made him invincible in the face of the world. That talk was one of the most impacting hours of my life whether I knew it or not. During that speech God was working on my heart and preparing me for a transformation beyond anything I thought was possible.
Later, I found the room where “When God Writes Your Love Story” was taking place, and I waited yet again for this strangely vigorous man with such a fire in his heart for God. He and his wife presented the talk together, and as they got into the message they described how to handle love Biblically. They made the bold statement that romantic love is to be saved for one; that God planned one person for us to spend our lives with, and that we are not to squander our passion on whomever we happen to “like” at that particular moment. We are to be set-apart champions of God, and we are not to spend our precious love on another girlfriend or boyfriend. We are to give our desires to the Lord, and wait for His perfect timing. We are to step back, let God write our love story, and give Him our all. (If you want to know more about this approach to romantic love, check out my “Love Unawakened” series) This is what their message was about. This is what God used to change my life.
After the talk was over, I went out into the main hall of the Lansing Center and found one of my friends. We talked a bit, but I wasn’t really paying much attention. I was sort of in a daze. Thousands of thoughts about girls, dating, and purity raced across my mind. I had never even thought about not dating and giving my love story to God before. I figured dating was what everyone did when they turned whatever age their parents set for it. The idea of not chasing after girls in and of itself was new to me. It was like someone had just told me that right was wrong and wrong was right. It was astounding, and at the same time strangely drawing. For the first time in my life I felt a desire to serve my future wife and to love her. I really wanted to pursue this “saving my affections” thing, and if you know me, you know that when I set my mind to do something, I don’t give up. I’m quite stubborn with what I adhere to in life. If I was going to do this, I was going to put my all into it. There would be no turning back.
The New Life
After that incredible experience I did some serious thinking. I decided that I couldn’t figure this whole thing out just by remembering what Eric and Leslie said at the conference. I needed to look into it deeper. One of my friends had a copy of Eric and Leslie’s book, “When God Writes Your Love Story,” so I borrowed it. After reading it, I felt like I had found something sincerely worth committing to in life. Before this, I struggled with the purpose of my existence and what I was living for. As my actions made clear, I didn’t want to live for God, and if God wasn’t the purpose of my efforts then what was I doing here on this planet? All I ever pursued in my free time were my hobbies, and they didn’t outweigh all the damage that was in my relationships with my brothers, or the anger and resentment I felt regularly because I was mad at my schoolwork or my parents. I felt empty, useless, and without a real purpose or hope in life. After I read that book I discovered something valuable, something worth devoting my life to. I wanted in. I made the choice to go all out in favor of this crazy idea of waiting for love and genuinely living for God.
Little did I know how difficult this path I had chosen would be. As I moved into this new lifestyle, I found loads of other things in my life that didn’t match up with my passion to serve God in my romantic desires. After all, I couldn’t abstain from pursuing girls and still treat them like objects, so I found myself wanting to serve God in my view of girls. I couldn’t treat girls as precious jewels made in the image of God while still talking about them in disrespectful ways with other guys, so I stopped. And I couldn’t do all this heart-searching without realizing that I was so absent from my Bible and so dead in my prayer life, so I started looking for ways to establish those habits in my daily routine. One thing came after another. With the help of some fantastic books God used in my life, I suddenly became so aware of what I should have been doing and what I needed to stop doing. The Holy Spirit was definitely doing some radical things in my convictions; I never would have even considered changing all these habits in my life before this.
A few months after these remarkable events, I went to the “Basic Life Principles” seminar with my dad. It was basically a recording of speaker Bill Gothard talking about the truth behind so many “harmless” things we see the world doing, and how to live Biblically in every little decision we face in life. Mr. Gothard is an amazing speaker, and his explanations and examples were overwhelming. It was a huge turning point for me, and during it I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. I’ve rededicated my life before, but I know that it was not genuine. I was “saved” at four years old, but I remember that my motives were to make my mom and dad pleased with me, and to do it because that’s what everyone else did. I didn’t care about actually following God. Frankly, I was a bit young to fully understand it, and the fact that my actions didn’t improve at all afterwards affirms that nothing really happened. This event, however, was different. This wasn’t fake spiritual-sounding chatter. This was a real encounter with God and a real commitment. This was my true day of salvation. I knew that from that moment on I never had to worry about Satan telling me I wasn’t saved, because now I really was. Whenever he decided to whisper lies in my ear I could point him to the Basic Life Principles seminar, where God Almighty changed me from a pathetic nominal Christian to an authentic believer.
I look back on those defining months of my life with joy, but also with sadness. I’m so grateful to my Lord for saving me from my hypocritical lifestyle, and at the same time I see hundreds around me who are still trapped in the endless cycle of an uncommitted, counterfeit, “Christian” routine. It’s heartbreaking to know that these people are deceiving themselves, and will not see Christ unless He decides to open their eyes to their foolish ways. I pity them all the more because I was one of them. I long to be able to help them and talk to them, I pray for them, and I plan to one day devote my entire career and life to saving them. Unless God calls me to something different, I want Christ to use me to save those in the same condition I was; especially the youth. I’ve begun to see that everything begins with the youth of our planet. All the kids who could care less about God, all those who said a prayer when they were little and only see Jesus as a get-out-of-hell-free card; they are the next leaders! They are the upcoming generation’s pastors! They are the future missionaries! How scary is that? Yes, they may change when they’re older, but in the meantime so many years are being wasted! When you think of our country’s (or our world’s) youth, do you see a lot of great Christian leaders fit to pass on the invaluable Gospel of Christ in a glorious way? I don’t. I see an ocean of shallow, pitiful kids like I was, obsessed with the world and avoiding God as much as possible.
Do you think I’m being harsh? I know because I was there! I know what I did. I know what’s going on among Christian youth. I know how to play the act of a “Christian kid,” and I know what to say to appear secure in Christ. This is happening everywhere; most just ignore it or don’t realize it. This issue is not just something that a few old people are fretting over and some teen is ranting about on his blog. It’s a serious problem, and it needs to be addressed if there is to be any hope for the next generation’s teachers and learners. The instruction of the church’s youth cannot be dumbed down or held back. We kids know that committing to something requires work, and we’re pretty smart too. We can figure out how to hide practically anything from our parents, can’t we? We can put hours and hours into our friends and our video games, right? Well, then we can understand that in order to call ourselves Christians we need to put that time and energy into God! We can handle theology! We can comprehend that it’s all in or it’s all out! Please tell us the Truth! Tell us that there’s no in between! Make it known that we’re either a friend to God and an enemy to the world, or an enemy to God and a friend to the world (James 4:4)! We could see that, if only more people were telling us that. Don’t treat us like we’re not responsible to live passionately for God. We’re just as responsible as any Christian! We don’t need another feel-good speech from a guy who tells us, “It’s ok, because everyone sins.” That’s the opposite of what we need! We don’t need “a little rebellion.” That’s sin! We don’t need pampering. Most of us teens are practically grown! We need challenging, convicting, gut-wrenching messages that make us feel like what we are; hypocrites and lost sinners! We need encouragement not to “be a man” or “do our own thing,” but to follow God relentlessly and never give into the world! What we need is Christ and Him crucified!
How About You?
If you can’t look at your life; your actions, your habits, your time, your desires; and say, “I follow the Lord!” honestly, then you might want to reconsider your title of “Christian.” It’s true that all genuine Christians stumble and everyone does sin. But those who are saved do not keep on sinning (1 John 3:6) like I did a couple years ago. Ever since God saved me in the Basic Life Principles seminar, I know I’ve been different. Yes, I still sin on a regular basis. Yes, I still have a LOT of work to do. But now I know that the Holy Spirit is with me and in me, changing my life day by day. I feel something that was not there before. Do you feel it? Ask God to reveal to you what your life looks like to Him. Ask God to open your heart and your eyes if you’ve been shutting Him out in favor of electronics or relationships. Let the Holy Spirit do Its work. Be honest with yourself. Do you think your life testifies the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Ask God to save you from your sinful cravings and mold you into a committed believer for Him; not just on Sunday or in public, but all the time and everywhere. Are you a friend of God? Or are you another one of His adversaries hanging out with the world? I was God’s enemy, and He chose to save me. I pray he does the same for you.
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” – 1 John 3:6-10